Battle of Chattanooga

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Rosecrans, William S.(1).jpg
Portrait of Major General William S. Rosecrans from Delaware County, Ohio, ca. 1861-1865. Photograph was made from a negative in Brady's National Portrait Gallery.

The Battle of Chattanooga took place from November 23 to November 25, 1863, during the American Civil War.

The battle resulted from the defeat of the Union's Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General William Rosecrans of Ohio, at the Battle of Chickamauga. Following Chickamauga, the Army of the Cumberland regrouped at Chattanooga. The Army of Tennessee, under the command of Braxton Bragg, seized the heights, including Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, surrounding the city. Southern artillery prevented supply trains or reinforcements from reaching Rosecrans's army and prevented the Northerners from retreating. The Northern soldiers were in a dire situation. They had to surrender, starve, or attack a larger, well-fortified force.

Union military officials immediately dispatched reinforcements to the Army of the Cumberland, including twenty thousand men from Virginia under General Joseph Hooker in October and an additional sixteen thousand men with General William T. Sherman of Ohio. General George Thomas, the man most responsible for saving the Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga, replaced Rosecrans, although General Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio assumed overall command of Hooker's, Thomas's, and Sherman's men in October.

Upon arriving to take command of the Union forces, Grant immediately set about opening a safe supply line. He succeeded in doing so on October 28. For the next three weeks, Grant plotted his next move. It came on November 23, following the arrival of Sherman's troops to bolster the Union force. On that day, Grant ordered General Thomas to attack Confederate soldiers at Orchard Knob. The Union soldiers drove the Southerners from the field. The next day, under the cover of fog, General Hooker attacked the Confederate stronghold of Lookout Mountain, securing the vast majority of the mountain for the Northerners.

Although the Northerners had enjoyed some initial success, Confederate forces still held Missionary Ridge. Grant ordered his men to attack this position on November 25. Sherman was to attack the right flank, while Hooker attacked the left, and Thomas held the center. Unfortunately for the Northern troops, Hooker's men faced difficulty crossing Chickamauga Creek and did not launch their attack at the planned time. This left Sherman's men facing the Confederate troops alone. Grant ordered Thomas, who commanded soldiers in the front of the Confederate army, to attack rifle pits at the foot of the ridge. Grant hoped that this attack would divert some of the Confederates attacking Sherman's force and give Hooker time to make his assault. Thomas men easily captured the Confederate position and then launched an all out assault against the center of Missionary Ridge. Although Grant had not ordered the charge, Thomas's Army of the Cumberland succeeded in driving the Southerners from the ridge. The Battle of Chattanooga came to a close and much of Tennessee was secured for the Union, at least for the time being. The union also now held this important railroad center and had access to Georgia.